Singer Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield, a son of blues legend Muddy Waters, died Thursday morning, according to his publicist Lynn Orman Weiss.
He collapsed at the home in Waukegan where he lived with his wife, Deborah, whom he’d married three months ago, Orman Weiss said.
He was 56. Orman Weiss said the cause was unknown. An autopsy is pending.
Mr. Morganfield, who leaves behind seven children, grew up in Westmont with his famous father and his stepmother, Marva.
“My father would’ve found so much joy in what Joseph has accomplished. Joseph was living his best life when he passed away. Few people leave this Earth doing what they were meant to be doing. The family is deeply, deeply brokenhearted,” said Mercy Morganfield, Mr. Morganfield’s sister, and executor of the Muddy Waters estate.
Young Joseph played basketball at Westmont High School and the University of Northern Iowa. Because of his athletic prowess, Orman Weiss said he and his father used to “joke about who’s going to get the most ink in their lifetimes.”
He was looking forward to publicizing his new Delmark single “It’s Good to Be King” and to a new full-length CD that was being produced by Grammy winner Michael Freeman, Orman Weiss said.
“He was so joyful,” she said.
In a Sun-Times story published earlier this week, Morganfield said he planned to complete the album next year with his band, the Mannish Boyz.
“We were supposed to put out a full CD,” he said. “But, with the virus being out there, we wouldn’t really have been able to [tour to] promote it. So we released the single just to keep our name out there. … But we’re watching the corona numbers. If they’re high, we won’t go back in the studio. Keepin’ it safe and still being productive is really difficult right now.”
“I spoke to him Wednesday night,” Orman Weiss said. “He was just ecstatic about the story and getting the word out about the music.”
Mr. Morganfield reminisced in 2018 about how he came to move in with his father. His mother, now deceased, struggled with addiction when he was a little boy, but he was a resourceful child who figured out how to reach out to Jay B. Ross, his father’s lawyer.
“I was 8 or 9 at the time,” he told the Sun-Times. “His number was on the bulletin board in the kitchen, so I called him. I said, ‘Hey, me and my brothers and sisters need some food. We’re starving.’ I had no way to get a hold of my dad.”
Mr. Ross “made a call, and, within an hour, we had McDonald’s coming out of our ears,” Mr. Morganfield said. “Within a year, my dad had custody of us kids.”
Westmont Mayor Ron Gunter said he officiated at the Sept. 4 wedding of Mr. Morganfield and his wife in a ceremony at the village hall before a handful of masked, socially distanced attendees. “I was more than honored,” Gunter said. “I’ve known Joe since he was 9. I was the director of the Park District for 40 years, and he hung out at the gym and was one of the best basketball players to come out of the high school,” earning a full scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa.
“Joe was a part of this community. This is a shock for a lot of people,” Gunter said. For years, he returned home to perform with his band at Taste of Westmont.
“He made a name for himself,” Gunter said. “He was following in his dad’s footsteps.”
Chicago musician Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of the late blues legend Lonnie Brooks, said he and Mr. Morganfield had a lot in common, both as sons of famous fathers and as musicians. Baker Brooks made a guest appearance as the guitarist on “It’s Good to Be King.”
“I was very impressed with his tremendous work ethic,” Baker Brooks said. “He was looking forward to the future, [and was excited about the prospect] of our working together some more. He hadn’t been doing music that long, and he was completely open to getting better at it. Any pointers I had for him, whether they were about music itself or the music business, he was completely willing to take.”
The two most recently performed together on the Nov. 27 episode of Baker Brooks’ weekly virtual concert series, “Live from the Brooks Blues Basement.”
Songwriter Terry Abrahamson, Mr. Morganfield’s collaborator said of his friend’s passing: “It’s a terrible loss, one that can’t be appreciated if you haven’t seen him. His ability to communicate the power of blues, the magic that the blues evoke … he had a reverence for the music that he translated with a fresh energy, to move the blues forward.”
In addition to his wife and sister, Mr. Morganfield is survived by his children Joshua, Matthew, Gabrielle, Jordan, Jade, Julissa and Bella; his stepchildren Annaliese and Amelia; his brothers Larry and William; his sister Rosilind; his stepmother Marva Morganfield; grandson Joshuan; nieces, nephews and great-niece.
Arrangements are pending.
Contributing: Moira McCormick
READ MUDDY WATERS’ SUN-TIMES OBITUARY, MAY 1, 1983, BELOW
Source by chicago.suntimes.com